If I’m ever stranded on Mars, I want to be stranded with a farmer — preferably a farmer from West Texas, or maybe southwest Oklahoma.
The likelihood of my being stranded on Mars is about equal to finding a trout stream there. First, I’m too claustrophobic to hang out in a spaceship long enough to get there. Second, I don’t particularly enjoy long trips, and I wouldn’t know how to pack. Would jeans and tee shirts be appropriate? Or would I need khakis and Oxford shirts? Boots? Would we dress for dinner?
If I did get to Mars, however, the odds of my being stranded are pretty good. I can easily imagine getting lost on my way back from a rock-hunting expedition. I get lost on my way from Plainview to Lubbock. Do I turn left at this crater, or go right? Are north and south the same on Mars as on Earth? Do earthly compasses work there? Will my Garmin GPS function on a Mars rover? Should any one of those lifelines fail, I could easily miss departure time and be marooned.
That’s when I would need the assistance of a farmer. We could build a greenhouse from parts left in the space hut recently abandoned by my good friends who couldn’t wait just a few more minutes for me to find my way back to base.
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If you’ve seen the movie, The Martian, you understand the dilemma. I would have a limited food supply — about a month of what we used to call K-rations in basic training — a limited supply of water, and an atmosphere that would shrivel me up. And sandstorms, bad sandstorms. Which is why I’d need a Southwest farmer to hang back and figure out how to survive a desolate climate.
He would feel pretty much at home. Anyone who farmed through 2011 on the High Plains ought to be able to handle Mars. Sandstorms would be but a minor inconvenience to these hardy souls. They cut their teeth on red dust.
Growing crops without water should be a snap, too. However much moisture they squeeze out of the atmosphere, or create from whatever elements that Martian character used, should be enough to keep us in potatoes until the rocket ship can make a few right turns and come back to retrieve us.
And if the rover breaks, I think I’d trust a man who can strip down and rebuild a John Deere combine between noon and dark to patch up a glorified 4-wheeler and have us rolling again.
A Southwest farmer could rewire the hut, repair the radio, and keep Martian pigweeds from sapping the moisture from our food crops. I’d bank on it.
If you haven’t seen The Martian, I recommend it. A lot of it is as far-fetched as any space travel film you’ll ever see. But the crux of the story is that human survival depends on an ability to grow food.
We often forget that on this lush green planet.